Organic View v.1 n.9

1. OCA Policy Board In Place For Fall Organic Rule
2. Action Alert Updates
3. GE Crop Yields/Pesticide Use No Better
4. EDF Lawsuit to Fight Bt Resistance
5. Organic Can Replace GE, British Campaigner says

1. OCA Policy Board In Place For Fall Organic Rule

As OCA continues to grow at a surprisingly successful rate -
we now have over 10,000 supporters and volunteers around the
country, in addition to the support of over 1,000 natural
food coops, CSA's and farmers markets - we are looking
toward the future. All signs are that the USDA will
introduce for public comment its next proposed national rule
on organic food in October. That rule will basically outline
a set of legally-binding national standards for organic food
production. In responding to the second proposed rule, OCA's
mission will remain the same - to maintain the integrity of
current strong standards for organic food so consumers can
trust the organic label.

As you recall, the USDA's last proposed national organic
standards was an affront to organic consumers, proposing
such practices as genetic engineering, irradiation and
sewage sludge farming, in organic food production. While
there are signs that USDA has made significant improvements
in the upcoming rule, we must be ready to make it clear that
consumers will accept no compromises regarding industrial
agricultural practices, no loopholes for genetic
engineering, and no opportunities to weaken existing strong
standards later on down the line.

To strengthen OCA for the Fall national organic standards
campaign, as well as another exciting campaign we will be
undertaking in the next few months (to be announced here
first), we have put together a Policy Board composed of
national and international experts in organic food, food
safety, protecting family farmers, international food
organizing, and most important of all - dealing everyday
with consumers at some of the nation's top organic food

This Policy Board gives OCA a wealth of expertise to draw
upon as we move into the next century. OCA believes we have
greatly enhanced the strength and capacity of our
organization by adding the expertise, intellect, and energy
of our Policy Board. We are very honored and excited to have
the following people as members of OCA's Policy Board:

Jay Feldman, National Coalition Against the Misuse of
Pesticides (NCAMP)
Nicols Fox, Author, Spoiled: The Dangerous Truth About a
Food Chain Gone Haywire
Jean Halloran, Consumers Union
Tim Hermach, Native Forest Council
Ellen Hickey, Pesticide Action Network - North America
Annie Hoy, Ashland Community Food Store (Oregon)
Mika Iba, Network for Safe & Secure Food & Environment,
Pat Kerrigan, Wedge Co-op (Minnesota)
John Kinsman, Family Farm Defenders
Al Krebs, Agribusiness Examiner
Bruce Krug, New York Farmers Union
Howard Lyman, Earthsave International
Charles Margulis, Greenpeace USA
Victor Menotti, International Forum on Globalization
Robin Seydel, La Montanita Co-op (New Mexico)
Vandana Shiva, Research Foundation for Science, Technology &
Natural Resource Policy, India
John Stauber, Center for Media & Democracy
Craig Winters, Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered

2. Action Alert Updates - Irradiation and Antibiotics

Over the last few months, Organic View has alerted readers
about two very important issues - the labeling of irradiated
food, and the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture. See -
/old_articles/new.stm#Antibio -
/old_articles/new.stm#Irrad Time is
running out to act.

The FDA is considering whether to change the current label
of food that has been treated with nuclear irradation. Among
the key issues the agency is considering are: whether to
eliminate or modify the irradiation radura symbol, reduce
the size of the label, or use alternative language such as
"cold pasteurization" instead of irradiation. Any move to
change the current irradiation label is a brazen attempt to
keep important information from food safety conscious

If you haven't commented already, this is your last chance
to submit comments on the Food and Drug Administration's on
the labeling of irradiated food. The last day for comments
is Monday, July 19. You can submit your comments on-line and
find additional background information including a sample
letter at the Campaign for Food Safety's website:

On the antibiotic front, American feedlot owners and farmers
continue to mix into livestock feed more than 16 million
pounds of antibiotics to promote faster animal growth and to
control rampant disease resulting from intensive confinement
on factory farms and feedlots. These antibiotics are often
the same ones used to treat life-threatening infections in
people. The overuse of antibiotics on the farm endangers
doctors' ability to treat bacterial infections.
Public-health experts including the World Health
Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention have recommended that any antibiotic used in
human medicine not be used to fatten livestock.

OCA is supporting the Center for Science in the Public
Interest's petition of the Food and Drug Administration to
end this practice. The deadline for submitting comments in
support of CSPI's petition is September 9. For more info on
submitting comments go to CSPI's website at:

3. GE Crop Yields/Pesticide Use No Better

Recent data from the US Department of Agriculture's Economic
Research Service for the 1997 and 1998 growing season found
that in most cases genetically engineered crops were not
getting any better yields than conventional crops, and
farmers were using about the same amount of pesticides on
engineered crops as conventional crops.

The two biggest boasts of the biotech industry are that
genetically engineered crops will increase yields (and allow
us to feed the world), and reduce pesticide use. The USDA
data released earlier this month looked at engineered
cotton, maize and soya beans and can be viewed at:

To study the use of pesticides on these crops, the USDA
divided the country into various different regions. In seven
of the 12 combinations of crops and regions, farmers using
modified crops had to add the same quantities of pesticides
to their fields as those growing non-modified crops. To
study yields, the USDA looked at 18 crop/region
combinations. In 12 of them, yields of modified crops were
no better.

"In the majority of crops and regions surveyed, there are no
statistically significant differences in pesticide use or
yield between engineered and nonengineered varieties,"
according to Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned
Scientists. "In one case, pesticide use increased on the
engineered crop and in another case, yield declined in the
engineered varieties."

Another analysis of engineered crop yields and pesticide use
came out last week from Dr. Charles Benbrook who looked at
Round-up Ready Soybeans. Benbrook's analysis of over 8,200
RR soybean trials found that RR soybeans produce lower
yields than possible if farmers planted comparable
non-engineered varieties. In some areas of the Midwest, the
best conventional variety of soybean outperformed comparable
RR soybeans by 10 percent or higher. In addition, farmers
using RR soybeans used 2 to 5 times more herbicide in pounds
per acre, and popular weed management systems. Benbrook's
analysis of Roundup Ready soybeans can be found at:

4. EDF Lawsuit to Fight Bt Resistance

In light of recent findings by Cornell University
researchers that pollen from genetically engineered Bt corn
dusted on the leaves of milkweed killed 44 percent of the
Monarch butterfly caterpillars that fed on it, the
Environmental Defense Fund filed a petition with the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week calling for
more regulation of the controversial crops.

Genetically engineered Bt crops contain the natural
pesticide bacillus thuringiensis in every cell.
Non-engineered Bt sprays are an extremely important tool for
organic farmers, as they control the European corn borer,
while being non-toxic to mammals and other non-target pests,
and degrade quickly in the sunlight.

Organic farmers have used Bt sprays carefully for decades to
guard against the corn borer building up a resistance to Bt.
But research indicates that genetically engineered Bt crops
(an estimated 22 million acres of U.S. farmland will be
planted this year with Bt corn) will hasten pest resistance
to Bt. If pest resistance occurs, it could be a disaster for
organic farmers. (For more, see:

The EDF petition calls on the US EPA to require that farmers
set up buffer zones of up to 60 feet to help shield the
monarch butterfly caterpillars from pollen on the Bt corn.
The petition calls for this policy to be enacted immediately
until further studies can be completed on the environmental
threats of Bt crops.

Last month, OCA and seven other environmental groups called
on the Clinton Administration to ban Bt crops in light of
the Cornell University study on the Monarch butterfly. And
earlier this year, a coalition of environmental groups and
organic farmers filed suit against the EPA calling for Bt
crops to be pulled from the field in light of their
environmental risks.

5. Organic Can Replace GE, British Campaigner says

Patrick Holden, director of the pro-organic Soil Association
in Great Britain, quoted in a July 16 Reuters story:

"My prediction is that the American public will reject GMO's
(genetically modified organisms), with massive opposition
within a year. . . The informed minority of American public
opinion is strongly against GMOs. You don't get concerned
about genetic modification until you have the knowledge. .
.We're still saying we can have global agriculture without
genetic modification. The biotech companies believe they can
artificially create immunity by gene splicing. I'm
interested in growing plants which have their own vitality
to protect them from attack. In a way it's (genetic
engineering) a wholesale abandonment of that respect for
nature in agriculture that all good farmers have."